Apex court to hear PIL on govt ads to newspapers

The Supreme Court on Monday decided to hear a PIL seeking direction to union as well as all state governments to stop use of public money for issuing full-page advertisements in newspapers highlighting their “self-professed achievements.”

A bench of Justices K S Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra appended the petition filed by NGO Foundation for Restoration of National Values along with a pending matter. Advocate R P Mehrotra, appearing for the NGO, sought direction for an immediate end to what he called as “wasteful expenditures” by the governments. He sought mandamus restraining  the Centre as well as all state governments from spending public funds and tax payers’ money, casting a burden of crores of rupees on the public exchequer.

“It is imperative and essential that in a democracy such as ours, which is founded on the ideas of equality and the freedom of speech, the free press in the nation remains unbiased, non-partisan and sufficiently robust in its ability to report the truth in an objective manner, however, by having State Governments give large sums of money for the sake of inserting unnecessary and wasteful advertisements in newspapers across the country, it would be axiomatic that newspapers would be beholden to the state administration and under such circumstances, the press is unlikely to remain unbiased, neutral and non-partisan,” the petition said.

The NGO which claimed to have in its advisory board former Chief Justice M N Venkatachaliah, Ratan Tata, former Delhi Metro chief E Sreedharan among others urged the court to frame guidelines to restrain advertisements in newspapers.It had referred to advertisements in different newspapers by Tamil Nadu and West Bengal chief ministers in May to buttress its points.

The court decided to tag the petition filed by the NGO with a pending 2007 writ petition entitled as Manzoor Ali Khan versus Union of India, in which the petitioner had raised  the issue of wasteful expenditure in the form of full/half page advertisement in newspapers on the birth anniversary of some political leaders.

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